★★★★★ Directed by: Niclas Gillis Written by: Niclas Gillis Starring: Tianna Allen, Prince Richard Combs, Tanisha Lambright, Cheryl Juniaus Short Film Review by: Chris Olson
A tale of urban survival in this harrowing short drama from writer director Niclas Gillis. Hold Me Down is a ferocious denunciation of the roles some women are forced into in order to endure life as others want them to.
Tianna Allen plays Chastity, a teenage single-mother living in New York City. Her poor living conditions are clear from the plastic bags she uses as diapers for her child, as well as the reprimands she faces from her mother (a spectacular performance from Cheryl Juniaus). However, it is not until we see how Chastity makes ends meet that we truly witness the heartbreaking reality of her situation. Paying the bills by working as a stripper at an illegal club.
Every now and then a story comes along that really gets its hands dirty with the brutal fringes of society. Last year, The Florida Project was an immense example of this, showcasing the harsh reality of single mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) through the eyes of her innocent child Moonee (Brooklynn Prince). And with Hold Me Down, filmmaker Niclas Gillis is not afraid to depict the conditions of Chastity in the harshest light. What’s remarkable about his film is that it feels like it pulls no punches, without ever really showing any nastiness.
We see our heroine experiencing the rebukes from her enraged mother, the cold detachment of a former boyfriend (Prince Richard Combs), and the lascivious attention of male onlookers (including one particularly aggressive van driver), but we do not see any gratuitous violence or brutality. This is the strongest message that can be gleaned from Hold Me Down.
The fact that women often experience such traumatic experiences whilst attempting to fulfil roles that society has shepherded them into is appalling enough, but the fact that so much of these experiences go untold or unnoticed is shameful.
Tianna Allen is superb in the leading role, occupying the tragedy of her character with grace. As she traverses the dangerous city streets in the dark, having left her not-so-home-sweet-home only to enter the lion’s den surrounded by vicious predators, no inch of Chastity’s life is safe or welcoming and Allen is marvellous at depicting the endurance of it all. Prince Richard Combs serves up a worthy turn as the good-for-nothing ex, whilst the aforementioned formidable screen time of Cheryl Juniaus is something to behold and completely captivating.
Raw and teeming with social dialogue, Hold Me Down is a powerhouse short film that takes a sledgehammer to gender roles whilst never loosening its grip on the audience’s collar.
Want to watch short films for free? You can watch the entire movie of Hold Me Down below.